This article is built on the premise that the topos has become a potent unit of cultural memory, an image that stores a wealth of often vague, buried or forgotten ideas. Its contents, like those of literature, tend to become extraordinarily condensed and confl ated; in consequence, some topoi (in particular the Holocaust topos) defy conventional tools of understanding and analysis. A solution to this problem can be found in an approach which broadens the scope of the sources of the Holocaust to include pop culture; gives up the rigid classifi cation of topoi, based on ‘hard’, documentary evidence; and, draws on a conceptual frame that connects the topos with the mechanisms of remembrance. A practical application of this approach is offered here in a series of readings of selected passages from Marcin Pilis’s novel The Meadow of the Dead (Łąka umarłych), Zygmunt Miłoszewski’s crime story A Grain of Truth (Ziarno prawdy), Marcin Wolski’s alternate history novel Wallenrod, Justyna Wydra’s war romance The SS-man and a Jewess (Esesman i Żydówka), Krzysztof Zajas’s thriller Oszpicyn [local Yiddish: Auschwitz] as well as some poems by Jacek Podsiadło from his volume The Breguet Overcoil (Włos Bregueta).
In post-humanist studies of identity, otherness and exclusion – conducted within the de-anthropocentrism of the humanities – questions arise about the condition of non-human subjects (animals, plants, things) that gain the cultural and social status of Others. As non-human entities, they have a socializing value, cement interpersonal relations, attract people to certain places. They have performative, integrative and co-creating abilities. The posthumanistic “turn towards things” opens the room for the construction of their social (auto) biographies, a development which already has been taking place in contemporary children’s literature. The problem of the creation of (auto)biographies of non-human subjects is presented in this article on the example of the picture book Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Tomi Ungerer. The artist gives the non-anthropomorphized plush toy the status of a non-human subject and an active actor of social life as a medium of unoffi cial memory of the Holocaust. Ungerer consciously and innovatively uses the key determinants of the posthuman discourse, including intimate childhood experiences.